Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Dear GLA alumni,
By now you are settled back into your daily lives, spending time with family and friends and studying hard (you better be!). Costa Rica may seem far off both in space and time, but we hope you hold the memories and lessons you experienced close forever. Few things are as impactful as short, intense experiences that can be demanding and challenging, but also rewarding surely as you found. We hope that you look back fondly on your time in Costa Rica, carry the spirit of service forward and never stop exploring and moving forward.
I (Jon) wanted to share some perspective on our final session of summer 2016. After three two-week sessions with 21 students in each one we were happy that each session had gone very smoothly with lots of laughs and great times had by all. Before the arrival of the last group (you) we tried to pack the two-day break with some down time in order to be prepared and well rested. I had gotten sick around the departure of the third session, while Emily and Eimear opted to travel three-and-a-half hours back to Uvita for the break. All of us were longing to regain some strength and hoped to do so in a short amount of time.
Our previous groups were quite large with 21 students apiece, so we were excited to welcome a group of 9 participants for our last session. We were uncertain of how interactions and group dynamics might be different and what challenges having a smaller group might pose. In addition, we would have a GLA office staff member, Joseph, accompanying us the entire trip and a new GLA hire, Karen, with us for part of the trip. The ratio of staff to students was set to be pretty small!
As it turns out, any reservations we may have had were immediately quelled when you arrived. As with the past groups you were tired and quiet upon arrival, but were not any less unique, curious, friendly, open and inspiring. Our get-to-know-you activities (and awesome staff!) continued to break the ice and allow us to discover details about each other’s lives.
I knew immediately from conversations at the airport, warm-up activities, and chatting over that first lunch that we had a special group. You guys come from a variety of backgrounds, have a wealth of experience and knowledge and rich personalities. Certainly you became comfortable in your surroundings with a group of strangers to push yourselves and develop relationships.
Through the service and activities you demonstrated enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, empathy, patience, trust and ambition. The staff was impressed by your determination while digging, painting, mixing and pouring concrete at Forjando Alas. The kitchen staff loved the cooking session and how everyone enjoyed making Latin cuisine. Your interest in yoga certainly pleased Pilar. Weinar and Henry loved working and joking with you all. Your surfing abilities impressed Travis (who, like Pilar, is a great instructor).
All in all, the group was able to overcome any initial jitters and awkwardness and truly come together to make meaningful friendships and connections during our two weeks together. We supported and encouraged each other, worked to solve problems and create projects, played fun games and participated in team-building activities. We picked up each other when we fell and high-fived each other for jobs well done. The community was grateful for our collective efforts, and we are grateful to have been in such a welcoming environment.
A smaller, more intimate group allows for deeper connections and interactions as we found. We are so pleased and happy to have a group of unique individuals, and especially one that came together to accomplish so much. Thank you for being with us, and we wish you all the best as you continue your journey. Never forget PTP!
All the best,
Throughout our two weeks we created some great, funny and touching memories.
Recollections from PTP5:
Reading with the local students at Forjando Alas in English, and having the students help some of the GLA participants read in Spanish. They were great teachers!
Playing a new game that we had never played; volleyball with water balloons. Lots of plans to soak others backfired on those launching the balloons which was hilarious!
The friendly snake that was caught slithering through homebase.
An impromptu yoga session with Pilar after doing service. What a great way to unwind after hard work!
The pick-up soccer game and Angely’s fiery motivational speech at half time!
Monkeys jumping overhead at the mangroves.
How many cows are in the tree? Seven.
Seeing whales breaching on the Corcovado tour!
Jean learning to swim!
The students doing amazing work at the service sites, especially manual labor at Forjando Alas and leaving it looking excellent.
Summer Blog Posts
Hola from homebase!
We arrived down here today just in time for lunch, and got settled in to our rooms. On out way down we stopped to see crocodiles and to take on a beautiful sea view… just a taster of what’s to come! Tomorrow we begin with surfing and service, good times ahead!
Today was our first full day in home base, and we were all pumped to truly start our adventures in Costa Rica. We all got up bright and early, ate a delicious breakfast, and made our way to the national park so we could engage ourselves in both meaningful beach cleanup work and learn to both overcome our fears of surfing, but to also help foster a connection to the ocean.
The service work was fulfilling; we not only helped maintain the beauty of the beach, but we also had fun interactions with our environment that helped us step out of our comfort zone, whether it be learning about the swarms of cutter ants patrolling the forest floor, or trying to open a delicious coconut without the usage of any man-made tools. Surfing was also a blast, as we learned the basics of surfing, connected with the ocean and deepened our relationships with the rich sea life, as well as put all we learned into practice in the crystal-clear waters of the Pacific. When we returned, we prepared four our community walk, with one of the local tour guides showing us around the community. This walk not only helped us grasp the importance of the Costa Rican way of life and how essential community is to the people here, but the movie that we watched after the tour which went into the problems that detrimental tourism inflicts on Costa Rica helped us truly understand the parlous way in which people interact with the environment.
All in all, today was a truly enriching experience, and we all can’t wait for tomorrow!
Today we had a much needed later wake up which better energized, and prepared us for the long day ahead. After breakfast we prepared for the hike and morning activity where we took tests on water sources around our town. These tests not only help us see how important sewage and plumbing in a city is, but helped us realize the impact that we have on the local water and ocean. Some of the tests were simple like smelling and seeing how contaminated it was, but also more intense accurate tests like measuring the PH levels.
After we were done with that we made our way to the main street and did some shopping. Some bought snacks and ordered drinks, while others bought meaningful attire. Once that was complete we headed back to home base and had a wonderful filling meal to prepare us for the service afterward. For the afternoon service we headed to a local school where after school programs were held. We met the kids and teachers we will be working with and also got to know the area we will be working in. Once the introductions were made, we sat down and groups and helped the kids read in English while they helped us read in Spanish. Afterward we headed to a gazebo were we played games such as lions and tigers, 4-square, and an interesting volleyball game with water balloons in which many of us got soaked. We not only better bonded with the kids but also got a great feel of the community. We all had a great time and are looking forward to working more with this community!
Starting off the day moving our hips left and right has to be one of the most awaking activities. It was sure fun but a energy killer. We started off our by dancing merengue, bachata, salsa, cunbia and the most important one tipico. Each dance was different in its own way, they each told their own story. Bachata told a romance, while salsa told a free flow and fast story. While for some it was new for others it took us back to our Hispanic roots. For those who the dance took back to their roots, it was great; it was once again felt like home. It was as we were in our own world and everyone else was embracing our culture. After a great morning of dancing, we continued our day by going to the Mangrove where we were able to kayak. Kayaking in the Mangrove was definitely an interesting experience. We were able to see monkeys, crabs, a snake and spiders so close which isn’t usual. We were able to interact with nature one on one, which was fun.
It was totally different than what it dealt with on a regular day basis coming from a city. Interacting with nature one on one like that gave us an understanding of how important it is to keep nature safe. If those Mangroves weren’t there we wouldn’t be able to have that experience and two it would really hurtful for a community because if a natural disaster came nothing would protect them the way the Mangroves would. So far every activity has help us understand that sometimes the value of money is nothing compared to the value of life and nature. Today was not only a day full of adventure but a day full of lessons. We were all able to enjoy ourselves and we look forward to planting mangrove trees and surfing tomorrow!
Today we woke up bright and early at 6:30. We had breakfast of toast and eggs. Then we went to surf/service. It was a low tide so there were huge, rushing waves! For service, we went into the jungle and planted mangrove trees.
Near the end it started raining, and we got caught in a huge storm. It was about a five minute walk from the beach to the van, so when we reached the van, we were all soaked. We were originally planning to visit the tree nursery after surf/service, but because of the rain we changed our plans. We went to Travis & Pilar’s house to build the museum and paint the protectorss. Afterwards, we had the most relaxed time with Pilar doing yoga. It was an amazing experience that we all enjoyed!
Today we started the day by walking through the community to the Marino Ballena National Park. There, we hiked through the jungle along the beach. We were able to see many different types of birds, crabs, howler monkeys, and a sloth. We were also able to eat coconuts that we found along the way. The walk was not only fun with us having the opportunity to see so many animals, but we also learned a lot about the environment and culture of Costa Rica. From there we walked to the “Whale Tail” on the beach and were able to walk out to get a view of the huge “tail” made by rocks and sand. We also worked to clean up the beach by picking up any plastic we found. Next we had beach time, so most of us went swimming in the ocean.
On our way back from the park, we stopped in the community for smoothies and granizados. After our lunch, we watched videos and had a talk about life without plastics. Then, we were broken into teams and challenged to come up with changes we could implement in our own community to cut back on plastics. Our final activity of the day was going over the data we collected from our previous water quality testing and learning how to use a computer program to map this information. This also allowed us to see potential dangers to the community with contaminated water so close to the beach and ocean. Tonight we had an early dinner and reflection so that we can be ready for our 5am wake up tomorrow.
We will be taking a boat to the Osa Peninsula to go hiking so we are all excited to start our busy day tomorrow!
Today we started the day off early by waking up at 5am and by 6 we started to head over to the beach to take a boat to the Osa Peninsula. On our hour ride to the peninsula we saw round 6-7 baby whales and their mothers and some playful dolphins. We got to the peninsula and got our hiking gear on and made our way into the forest along the trail we saw golden orb spiders, spider monkeys, white face monkeys and many other local animals we even saw a 600 year old tree.
Almost done with the hike we stopped to take a quick swim in the waterfall/creek that was off the trial. After the hike we ate a killer lunch that the tour guides cooked us. We left the peninsula and made a stop to swim for around 30mins and then our way back. On our way back we saw more whales and one baby whale was jumping in and out of the water which was rad. After the boat ride we walked back from the beach back to home base to get ready for a busy day of zip lining the next day.
Today we began our exciting day of zip lining by waking at 6am in the morning and taking a 45 minutes ride to the Osa canopy tour. After arriving to the Osa canopy tour we took a truck that took us to the zip-line departing spot. On our way up the mountain, we had a beautiful clear view of the horizon and began to take pictures. We reached the zip-line and began our journey. Being high up on top of the trees, with the acceleration and the high-speed combined, filled us with adrenaline.
Following the zip-line journey we wee provided with a delicious snack of fruits and the Tarzan swing, swinging us side to side and upside down. Leaving Osa canopy tour around 12pm to take a 45 minutes trip back to Baia, we had lunch and prepared for service. Our service for today was to help out at the tree nursery. At the tree nursery the group followed up in our previous work related to the tree nursery that we started a few days ago. The group was divided into three different groups. The first group had to re-soil the baby trees, the second group had to finish building shelf for the litter museum, and finally the last group took care of painting the tree protectors and the three Rs sings. Even with the rainy day we were to have an interesting game of trivia about Costa Rica.
Lastly, we ended up having dinner and looked forward to having our soccer game tomorrow with the local kids.
Today I woke everybody up 30 minutes earlier than the regular wake up time, some found it useful but others were upset but I did it to get my team up early cause it was a busy day. Breakfast was at 7:30 and we enjoyed some great scrambled eggs, bread, fruits, and rice and beans. We later headed off to our first service cite at Forjando Alas helping with the new building. We were the smallest group of the summer but we put a lot of work and effort onto the work and got a lot done. It was hard and messy work in the sun but we felt accomplished by the time we were done.
We went back to home base and rinsed off and ate some magnificent lunch and headed out to our next service at the tree nursery. We all contributed to helping finish our shelf and other work. We painted and decorated the shelves but unfortunately didn’t get to finish but we did get a lot done. After that we headed out to the football field to break some ankles. When we got there we made our team and it was GLA vs. Ticos and at the start we were getting destroyed and getting our ankles broken left and right.
After we got a hang of it we were in beast mode and managed to pull out a win against the ticos 12-10 . Those kids were bomb and fast but we managed to pull together. After breaking ankles and getting our own broken we headed to the store and got some ice cream and refreshments. I got a 3-liter soda for module B cause we believe in family and sharing. On our way home we stopped by again to get some necklaces. I helped our team cross the street really carefully. We managed to get home safe thanks to my responsibility. We are safe now and ready for dinner and bed.
Last day in Costa Rica, the long bus ride was soothing and gentle. Deep down inside I didn’t want the day to end, I didn’t want to go home but with every minute passing I realized it was inevitable. At that same moment we stop at a souvenir shop, there we got the last bit of physical memory we can get.
We saw many interesting things throughout the store, we found cool knives , machetes , Addison and Max found a cool long necklace thing it was awesome. I personally didn’t get anything I was planning on brings more than just souvenirs, I was planing on bringing my new knowledge I’ve learned and friendships I’ve made back home. We got back on the bus and and prepared for a long ride to the hotel in Alajuela. It took us till night time to arrive but when we finally did we went into our rooms and set things ready before we had to go onto an activity . At the activity we all stuck a piece of paper on our backs and we all had to write one thing about That person , it had to be done on everyone . At the end we could see what other people had to say about you and honestly it felt good knowing what people will remember you as . I took my piece of paper and planned to bring it home with me as a memory . Afterwards we had a social gathering at the boys ultimate best room and we all had a good time together as a group and sadly me being one of the students that had to be the first ones to leave the next morning I had to go to bed . But just as I was going to bed I thought about everything I’ve been through on this trip everything I’ve learned from Pilar , Travis , Emily , Wayne , Eimear , Jon and everyone else and how much we’ve all grown because of it. Some of us have learned a little more about ourselves during this trip of protecting the pacific I personally found a bit of myself here. Before I came here I talked about how I want the answer to find myself in this trip to become one with everyone and everything I will be thought. I think everyone came here with a goal and that goal had to be found and answered. Well I was like a bliss junkie chasing the ultimate truth.
When I started thinking about it I was more happy while seeking the truth and probably everyone else as well . Cause once we find the answer we risk completion. We talk about being found we talk about finding ourselves but isn’t it more fun to get lost? We are all wanderers ,aren’t we seeking ?cause we as people love open spaces there is more appeal to open spaces than beautiful small spaces . When we look at the ocean we feel a sense of reverence and awe instead of being afraid we look at it as it beckons us to the unknown to the question to the mystery . Travis personally has thought me to look at the ocean this way that the ocean is a beautiful place that we barely know yet it intrigues us day by day. But that’s what it’s all about to have a connection with such nature to protect it not just here but anywhere we go that is the state of consciousness that we wanna be at. We wanna be the traveler in search of signification when we find it its over . Cause “it’s not about the answers, it’s about the better questions.” And that’s really it this trip helped us all find ourselves weather we realized it or not we had to get lost to find ourselves . It’s only when we’re lost that we’re found and that’s how I felt throughout this trip I found a bit of who I am by protecting the pacific i am someone who deeply cares about these places . But even after this we are all still seekers still in search from years to come. I’m glad I took this trip now I know more about the truth and now I know how much I don’t know about the truth of what people are doing to our beautiful planet . The next morning I woke up early to get ready for my fight home me and Matthew were ready to go so we went downstairs to say our goodbyes. Angely and Heather were also the ones to come to the airport early like us and there we said our final goodbyes to everyone in the group.
We said goodbye to Max, Kassandra, Special K ,Karen , Addison and Jon sadly if I recall correctly Maya and Joseph weren’t there but we still adored them in spirit. At least I did. So that was it I was going back home everyone else too. And everyone here created their own story on this trip, we are a story we all gave each other meanings in our story . When I talk about meaning I mean we want our stories to have a purpose, to have a plot ,to have consummation ,to have consecration to learn from the obstacles that we slay . And I hope that when we come back we become someone who can teach and bestow the knowledge into somebody else because we are a miracle we are THE miracle and we can create other miracles around the world to bestow our knowledge and help save Mother Nature and mother ocean. I’m glad once again I went on this trip Costa Rica felt like home Costa Rica is home I hope I get to see you guys once again in the future I’m gonna miss ya .
I’ll bring the knowledge I learned here back “home” so I can make a change. Pura Vida Guys !! Until next time.